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Thursday, December 14, 2000

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Services surprises Airlines

By Kamesh Srinivasan

Punjab 4 -- Bengal 0

Chandigarh 1 -- Uttar Pradesh 0

Services 4 -- Indian Airlines 2

BSF 6 -- J&K 4

JAMMU, DEC. 13. Playing without the worries of qualifying for the semifinals, Services showed its firepower with a 4-2 triumph over the defending champion, Indian Airlines, in a group `IV' super- league encounter of the National hockey championship at the K.K. Hakhu Stadium here on Wednesday.

The result had no bearing on the fortunes of Indian Airlines, except for the embarrassment of the chastening experience, as the team had qualified for the semifinals on winning its first two matches in the group, against Border Security Force (BSF) and the host, Jammu and Kashmir.

Indian Airlines skipper Dileep Tirkey had to shoulder the scoring responsibility, and found the goal twice by converting the team's first and third penalty corners with direct hits in the second and 33rd minutes.

However, Services responded manfully, and was very much in the fray once Satvinder Singh scored the equaliser by converting the team's first penalty corner. Services strung a few good moves but was unable to beat the Airlines goalkeeper Ashish Ballal in the first half.

On resumption the fortunes swung, as Services found the equaliser with a penalty stroke conversion by Avtar Singh. Thereafter, Kamal Horo came up with two defence-piercing hits, which were given the silken touch by Jerome Kujur and Susan Topno in the 11th and 23rd minutes of the second half. It was time for Services to celebrate.

Indian Airlines tried quite a lot in the second half, by pulling back Lazarus Barla to his original fullback position, and putting Pramod Tirkey in the inside-left position. The front- line had many other changes with Mukesh Kumar disappearing and reappearing, and Brojen Singh trying different positions, but to no avail.

For a team that had not conceded a single goal in the zonal league in five matches, it was a big jolt for Indian Airlines, which had conceded only one goal in its two earlier matches in the super-league. Maybe the team would have played better had it known the arrival of the IHF secretary or his intentions of changing the tournament rules in a bid to enliven the proceedings on the last day of the super-league.

Change of rules

A dramatic twist was provided to the day's proceedings before the last match between Border Security Force and the host, as the secretary of the Indian Hockey Federation, Mr. Jothi Kumaran, decided to change the rules for qualification. He stated that the goal-difference would be considered first in case two teams were tied on points, which gave some hopes for the BSF. The original rules that were circulated on November 14 to all the 45 teams, stated that the tie between two teams with equal points and equal number of wins would be broken by considering the result of the match between them.

In the event, BSF was teased by Jammu and Kashmir before it eventually prevailed with a 6-4 margin.

Having missed the race for qualification following its loss to BSF and the draw with the host, Services played carefree and emerged error-free in finding the target. The team bounced back remarkably this day, after being down twice to record a memorable win.

BSF wins, just about

BSF had a tough task of having to win the match by a 11-goal margin to cash in on the changed yardstick, which in any case would not have stood scrutiny. But the host proved far too enthusiastic to open the floodgates.

In fact, J & K led 3-2 at one stage after being locked 2-2 at half-time. Mandeep Singh, the left-handed hero of the team's qualification from the zonal league, found the target twice, both the times directing his reverse hits accurately with his back to the goalkeeper. Indpal Singh converted a penalty stroke before half time, and he converted another two minutes from the final hooter to enthral the local supporters who thronged the venue in good number.

BSF also had two penalty strokes, one in each half, and converted both through Sushil Kumar. Marianus Lakra (2), Harbajan Singh and W. Bismobir Singh were the others to find the goals for it. Three of its goals came off penalty corners, but BSF was also guilty of squandering 14 of them, along with many other openings.

Dhillon nets two

Meanwhile, Punjab had a comfortable time, sharpening its skill against Bengal, scoring a 4-0 victory after leading 2-0 at the interval in group `III'.

Skipper Baljit Singh Dhillon struck twice off the team's first two penalty corners, while Surjit Singh and Jugraj Singh also joined him in the scoring act.

Punjab must be feeling good as it converted three of its four penalty corners, while Bengal drew a blank, unable to beat the Punjab goalkeeper, Teja Singh, with a few raids apart from five penalty corners.

Chandigarh upstages U.P.

Chandigarh recorded its second win, a 1-0 triumph over Uttar Pradesh, with Sukhbir Singh Gill tapping home a rebound, in the 34th minute of the first half.

U.P. could have equalised a few seconds before the hooter, but for a poor reaction by Anuj Chaturvedi who trapped a pass from Amarjit, but could not deliver the decisive blow.

lSuper- league standings (read as played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against, points): Group-III: Punjab: 3-3-0-0-9-2-9; Chandigarh: 3-2-0-1-4-2-6; Uttar Pradesh: 3-1-0-2-4-4-3; Bengal: 3-0-0-3-0-9-0.

Group-IV: Indian Airlines: 3-2-0-1-14-5- 6; BSF: 3-2-0-1-10-9-6; Services: 3-1-1-1-7-7-4; J & K: 3-0-1-2-6-16-1.

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